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Mediation is a popular means of coming to a divorce settlement. These papers allow both parties the opportunity to come to an agreement that is mutually beneficial and acceptable. In many cases, mediation is effective. However, there are times when a mediation agreement needs to be changed.
It is important to understand what a mediation agreement is. It is not a handshake deal that can be broken at will. Rather, it is an enforceable legal contract that is usually reinforced by a court order. Mediation agreements should not be broken for any reason. To do so puts you at risk of legal penalties, up to and including being jailed for contempt of court. If a person needs to change the terms of the papers, there are ways to accomplish this legally even after both parties have signed them.
If the mediation papers were filed in a court as part of an official divorce settlement, the party who wishes to change them will need to file for an amendment to an order. Judges are reluctant to amend orders without a good reason unless both parties agree. This process requires expert legal representation. In many cases, both parties will need to go to mediation again. The person who wants the change in the papers will often need to shoulder the costs for this repeat mediation, including mediation fees and court costs. In most cases, you will not be asked to pay for the other person’s lawyer, although this is still a possibility.
If the papers will not filed in a court, the process is much the same. However, you can try to first contact the other party and get them to agree to your changes. If they agree, you can ask for this in writing. The new mediation papers should be signed, notarized, and state explicitly that they replace the former agreement. If both of you agree to change an informal mediation agreement, the process is very simple. It is still a good idea to consult a lawyer to ensure that the new agreement meets legal standards and fully replaces the old one. However, if the other party does not agree to the changes then you can take them to court. Again, you will usually be expected to pay court costs and mediation fees.
Courts generally like to enforce existing agreements if these agreements were reasonable. You will need to meet a high bar to change the clauses of mediation papers without the other party’s consent. You can do so if you can show that you were tricked or otherwise unaware of the consequences of the agreement. You also can do so if circumstances have changed such that the agreement is no longer reasonable. Last, courts will be sympathetic if the other party misled you about the situation. For example, a financial agreement may be modified if the other party is found to have lied about their assets.
Changes to mediation papers often occur in custody situations, because children have changing needs and living arrangements. Child support agreements also may be changed if one of the parties is earning far more or far less than they did when the papers were signed. If you wish to change the division of property from a divorce, however, this will be more difficult. Once money has been disbursed, it is highly unlikely that a court will give you a different award.
Many people need to change mediation papers even after they have been signed. There are many legal ways to do this. Consult an experienced family law attorney today to find out how you can make the changes you need to meet the changing needs of your family.